MR HARALD LYSTAD

The centrepiece of my collection, and my favourite item, is the distinctive Norwegian Unit crew jacket from the Empire Strikes Back.  On this page of the website, I want to pay special tribute to the original owner of this jacket, Mr Harald Lystad (pictured below in 2015), who played a pivotal part in facilitating the Finse location shoot, and the creation of these fantastic and iconic garments.

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This web site is the home for a personal collection of memorabilia from the Star Wars movie saga, focusing mainly on items produced in Britain or for the British market, during the 'vintage' period between 1976 and 1988.

The web site is a work in progress and will be updated and expanded as I get the chance to photograph more items from my collection, or as I acquire more pieces.

I am always looking to expand my collection, and if any visitor to this site has any items that might interest me, or if you have any queries about vintage Star Wars collecting, please feel free to get in touch using the Contact page.

Thank you for visiting!

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In 1977, Harald Lystad was the General Manager for 20th Century Fox in Norway.  Some 30 to 40 movies from the Fox studio were imported for release in the Norwegian market every year, but the Norwegian office was concerned only with distribution, and had no role in production.

 

In May 1977, to coincide with the opening of Star Wars, a convention of all 20th Century Fox executives worldwide was held in Paris.  Gary Kurtz, the Producer of Star Wars, presented the movie and told the assembled executives about the sand planet in the film.  He went on to say that there were plans for a sequel – and they were looking for an ice planet location.

 

By coincidence, Harald had visited the Hardangerjøklen Glacier at Finse some few weeks before, and he asked Gary what was required for the Ice Planet location.  He said it was supposed to be a small planet – you were supposed to se the curve of the horizon.  Harald told Gary, "We do have an Ice Planet in Norway – it is a Glacier, which I believe could be just what you are looking for."

After the summer of 1977, Harald took a Helicopter trip to the Glacier at Finse, accompanied by Producer Gary Kurtz , Associate Producer Robert Watts, and Production Designer Norman Reynolds.  There in the early morning fog, Harald took probably one of the first production photographs taken at Finse (right).  Impressed with the location, Gary Kurtz announced “This is Planet Hoth”.  Harald had found the perfect spot for the Ice Planet.

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With Finse confirmed as the filming location, Harald worked as a “liaison officer” between Chapter II Productions and all Norwegian companies involved. Through the summer of 1978, the Star Wars team held a series of meetings with Norwegian government, shipping, railway and banking representatives.

 

There was also a lot of work to be done in Finse, preparing for the production from the autumn of 1977 through to the winter of 1978.  The hotel at Finse was closed, and parts of the hotel needed to be rebuilt.

 

During the summer of 1978 Harald attended a production meeting in London, and he asked what plans they had for clothing, as the crew would be working in the freezing conditions of the Norwegian mountains during wintertime. “We will find clothing here in London,” production supervisor Bruce Sharman said.  Without knowing the consequences of his words, Harald replied, “Then I don’t think there will be any production at all in Finse. We will probably have to deal with temperatures of minus 5 to 10 degrees up there, and strong winds."

 

With these words, Harald was duly appointed responsibility for supplying clothing to the Production Crew and the actors at Planet Hoth. Back in Oslo, he contacted one of the main suppliers of ski clothing in Norway, also supplier to the Royal Family, and the Norwegian Winter Olympic team.  Per Frølich Poppe was the man behind the Ski Peer sports brand, and was a pioneer in the design of winter clothing. His son Erik recalls, "I wouldn’t call him the true father of the down jacket, but he’s seen as the one that invented it by the industrial art museum"

 

Every crew member going to Finse was to receive a bag with winter clothing, to include an outer jacket with removable fur lined hood, matching trousers, boots, two sets of socks, long underwear, mittens, a thin balaclava, a knitted balaclava/cap, and ski goggles. The entire outfit was colour co-ordinated in matching blue, specially designed for this production, and sized to the individual. This would be essential to survival in the harsh Norwegian winter.

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At a meeting in the London production offices in early September 1978, Harald and Mr Poppe presented several proposals to the production executives.  

 

Mr Poppe (seen here in Gary Kurtz's office at Elstree Studios) brought with him samples of jackets that almost matched the required design, but the crew chose to have a bespoke blue colour scheme which would be used for this production only.

For the outer jackets, Harald and Mr Poppe had decided upon a design which would make the crew easily identifiable – and hence making it more difficult for the press and fans to sneak onto the set.  But most importantly, they would keep everybody warm and alive in the snow!

 

The first jackets that were made were prototypes, to see how effective the colour scheme was.  About 8 to 10 of these jackets were made, and distributed to senior members of the production (Gary Kurtz had one), with Harald also retaining one for his own use.  These jackets would later become known as the Executive Jackets.

Before the main run of jackets were made, small changes were made to the design, particularly to include much bigger pockets, which was a smart and practical innovation for the outside shooting.  About 110 of these standard Crew Jackets were made.

 

A third type of jacket was made in a dark blue material with rainbow coloured panels on the shoulders, in place of the orange and blue panels on the crew jackets.  These were the Press Jackets, and were more like standard Ski Peer Jackets with Star Wars patches - about 25 of these were made.  The intention was that these jackets should look so nice that the visiting members of the press would hopefully continue to use them after the visit to Planet Hoth, giving the movie free publicity.

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Pictured above are the three types of crew jacket produced by Ski Peer - left to right, the standard crew jacket (this is the Columbia re-issue), the press jacket, and the executive jacket.

 

Ski Peer did not make any of the Rebel uniforms, which were made by the production's costume department in London.

 

Ahead of filming, on 1st March 1979 Gary Kurtz, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and others arrived in Oslo, to be met by Fox executives and taken to dine at a restaurant with views high above the city. 

The next day, the day before departure for Finse, the production held a major press conference at the Scandinavia hotel in Oslo, attended by selected cast and crew members.  Gary Kurtz, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill were on stage. Harald remembers that they agreed it was very exciting going up to the mountains to a glacier to work. Although Carrie did not have any scenes at Finse, she was keen to come, just to see what it was like.  After the press conference the actors were available for press photographers, and this was the first time that the Crew Jackets were presented in public. 

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Harrison Ford, arriving a few days after the rest, was picked up at the airport by Harald, who recalls "He came out in jeans, a tee shirt and a small jacket.  It was about minus 20 degrees, and he was very happy getting a bag with all this gear!"

 

On 5th March, following a full snow storm, the railway between Oslo and Bergen was closed because of an avalanche.  Harrison was transported to the hotel at Finse in the middle of the night by a big diesel engine with a snowblower, from the Norwegian State Railway, working its way back to Finse through the storm.  Alan Arnold, the Unit Publicist, wrote in his notes, “We are isolated in a wilderness of snow.” 

In the morning the Norwegian crew (used to conditions like this) started work outside in the snow storm – while the rest waited inside. After some time, everybody came out – when they saw that the Norwegians had survived working outside!  Harald recalls thinking that this was a new and exciting experience for most of the crew, who had never worked in such conditions before.

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During filming, Harald (seen here second from the right, with Production Manager Svein Trælvik, Production Assistant Christian Berrum, and Mrs Kirsten Lystad) was at the location in Finse for around 2 to 3 days each week, for as long as the shoot continued.  He was continuing his liaison work, between Chapter II Productions and all of the various Norwegian companies involved, and the Norwegian Defence Department. 

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Harald, seen above with Unit Publicist Alan Arnold, had some personal friends within the Norwegian Army, which proved to be very helpful. Not far from the glacier at a place called Voss, a company of British Marines were on their Winter exercises, and they were very interested in what the Star Wars crew were doing at Finse. The production needed help from the Norwegian Army to keep them away!  Norwegian Army members also played roles as Rebel soldiers during some key scenes of the production.

 

On 12th March 1979, the Second Unit started shooting, with Peter Macdonald running the show. The weather was now much better, but it was still very cold. Helicopter scenes were shot from the air, footage that would be used to show the perspective from the Snowspeeders and from the Walkers.  Looking back, Harald (seen here on the far right) notes wryly that this was at the time before Drones had been invented, which would have made things much easier!

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On the day when the main Battle at Hoth was filmed, the production needed every spare member of the crew, to appear as Rebel soldiers.  Harald fit into the uniform with ease, and was called upon to appear as a background extra in several scenes, along with other crew members. 

 

Harald is pictured here in the centre, wearing his Rebel uniform.

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Harald recalls that three particularly important members of the crew were Production Manager Svein Trælvik, Associate Producer Robert Watts and Assistant Producer Jim Bloom  - he considers that they, as much as anyone, were responsible for the success of the production at Planet Hoth.  Watts and Bloom, being in part responsible for the budget, may have faced some hard questions later on, for the cost of the location shoot.  But when the movie was released, the Planet Hoth sequence was worth every dollar that had been spent in Norway!

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After the production had closed the set at Finse and the filming continued in the United Kingdom, Harald and his wife were invited to London for a week as Lucasfilm's guests.

 

Every day was spent visiting the studios, watching the work and meeting the actors.  They had a great time together with Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels and Dave Prowse.

On the left are personalised autographs, given to Harald by the stars of The Empire Strikes Back.

 

Looking back, Harald is proud that The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the Star Wars films.  His favourite memory from being involved with Star Wars is to have experienced all the professional film crew from England and America adjusting to working in the high mountains in snow storm conditions – the international crew coming out into the storm after having watched the Norwegian crew working out there for some time – and that they survived, in no small part, is thanks to Harald and the clothing that he had procured for them to wear!

I would like to give huge thanks to Mr Harald Lystad, firstly for his role in making the movie magic happen back in 1979 in Finse, secondly for allowing me the great honour to purchase and own his Empire Strikes Back jacket and balaclava, and finally for his valuable help in putting this web page together.  Thank you Harald!